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How to Get the Best Deals on a Used Car

Don't be taken in by smooth-talking used car salesmen. Find the best deal without paying for a bunch of extras you don't want or need.


  • Step 1: Research online Research online, in newspapers, and car trader magazines to get a an idea of what's available in your price range. If you're buying from a private owner, insist on driving the car first, and have a mechanic check it out.
  • Step 2: Ask about best cars Determine what make, year, and model is best for you. Ask an auto mechanic or a local tow truck driver about the kinds of cars they see the least so you can go after something reliable.
  • Step 3: Establish what you have Eliminate needless haggling and delays with a private seller or car lot salesperson by finding out beforehand how much financing your bank or credit union will extend for a car.
  • Step 4: Create wiggle room Create wiggle room in the negotiation price for a used car at a dealership by determining a fair value for a trade-in car ahead of time.
  • TIP: Remember that the Kelley Blue Book is only an estimated listing of what dealer prices average, not necessarily what the dealer will accept.
  • Step 5: Evaluate deals Evaluate dealership discounts, such as low finance charges or cash-back incentives. Carefully calculating and choosing between a zero percent payback and an attractive rebate can reduce the total spent on a used car.
  • Step 6: Make an offer Make a low offer to invite the salesperson to reject it and justify their asking price. Come up on the offer incrementally, but only as high as you originally intended to pay, and always be ready to walk away.
  • Step 7: Check fine print Check the fine print before making a deal. An extended warranty might not be worth it. Pay a documentation and license fee, with sales taxes and stipulated repairs to be done before signing.
  • FACT: With nearly 700,000 clunkers traded in, the $3 billion "Cash for Clunkers" program was an unprecedented success.

You Will Need

  • Internet access
  • Car trader magazines
  • Test drive
  • Mechanic
  • Tow truck driver
  • Financing
  • Trade-in car
  • Vehicle history report
  • Negotiation skills
  • Documentation and license fee

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